For its quintessentially Tuscan streets – and its striking mountain landscapes of the Garfagnana which guard them – Barga has been named one of the Borghi più Belli d’Italia (Italy’s most beautiful small towns). And, as if its natural beauty and the atmosphere of the side streets weren’t enough, the village is also home to the Barga Jazz Festival.
The festival was born in 1986 as a competition of jazz arranging and composing for orchestras, managing in a short time to get noticed by lovers of the genre. The festival quickly acquired its own orchestra, the Barga Jazz Orchestra, with the aim of spreading around the compositions submitted by the competition candidates.
Barga became an ideal setting for a genre that’s executed in myriad ways. The local population seemed to want to hear the same jazz notes ring out around town as they rang out during the festival; today, in fact, Barga is part of a network known as the “Borghi Swing” (Swing Towns), a collection of Italy’s most musical villages.
The festival program is varied and dense; over the years initiatives have been added to enrich the original contest, both for dedicated professionals and simple jazz lovers who see the genre as a lifestyle. The program makes space for big international names, next to more niche-y events and performances: groups playing together “invading” side streets and squares, corners dedicated to jam sessions, masterclasses and seminars, dinners and tastings immersed in the sounds of jazz. To sum up, it’s all done to create a full-blown festival dedicated to jazz, with passion and knowledgeable dedication steering the ship.